From Consortium News
Sen. Bernie Sanders has unveiled a new single-payer healthcare plan which would provide all Americans with government-sponsored health coverage. Sanders's plan, supported by some 16 Democrats in the Senate, calls for an overhaul of the healthcare system with what would essentially be a tweaked and revitalized version of Medicare-for-all.
"Today we say that a function of a rational healthcare system is to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way," declared Sanders, an independent from Vermont, "and not to continue a system which allows insurance companies and drug companies to make hundreds of billions in profits each year and makes healthcare industry CEO's extremely wealthy."
Flanked by supporting senators in making his Wednesday announcement, Sanders also noted that a Medicare-for-all program would end "the complexity of a system which adds enormous stress at a time when people need it the least."
I spoke on Sept. 13 to Russell Mokhiber, founder of The Corporate Crime Reporter and of SinglePayerAction.org. Mokhiber has long been an advocate of the single-payer option. He is also someone who watches closely the deadly nature of corporate greed.
Dennis Bernstein: Please give us your initial reaction. Bernie has a number of senators who say they believe in single-payer. Several presidential hopefuls are among those who jumped on the Sanders Single-Payer bandwagon. You think they are playing early presidential politics with single-payer, or are they true believers? Do they support Sander's vision?
Russell Mokhiber: That is what they are saying, and it is obviously because of the grassroots prairie fire that has been lit by single-payer activists over the years. It is truly out of our hands now.
Usually when you go to these meetings with your member of congress, the single-payer activists would be the only ones raising the issue. Now we are standing in line screaming at our congress people, demanding it, because the situation on the ground has become so bad.
Nine years ago, when the insurance industry-written Obamacare was introduced, there were 23 people testifying. They refused to listen to any of us who wanted to put single-payer on the table. In fact, they had us arrested. Six months ago, Bernie's healthcare person told us that there wasn't going to be a single-payer bill because they didn't want to risk a Democratic Senate in 2018 and they thought that single-payer would hurt them. But once they saw the grassroots pressure, they totally flipped. Just a month ago, Bernie had in this bill co-pays and deductibles.
So this is all about the grassroots pressure. Obviously it has now become a hot political issue. Someone like Kamala Harris would never have touched this just a couple weeks ago. Senator Richard Blumenthal from the insurance state of Connecticut has signed on!
Do we believe that they will push single-payer if we take our foot off the gas? No. We believe the Democratic Party is structurally incapable of being a people's party. The only way they are going to respond is if the people keep their foot on the gas. This seems very similar to California in 2006 when the Democrats passed single-payer in California knowing that Governor Schwarzenegger was going to veto it.
We are very encouraged by this response but we really want to see this happen, not just political posturing. We are concerned that the Democrats will use this to gain power and then push it aside for something like a public option or to secure the position of the insurance industry in the current system.
I was at a conference this week called by Cornel West and the Green Party to address the fact that the Democratic Party is structurally incapable of being a people's party. My colleague Bruce Dixon at Black Agenda Report said a few years ago that Bernie is like a sheepdog into the Democratic Party. He is shepherding the left back into the party. My hope is that, if this is what is going on, at least we will get out of it single-payer for all Americans.
DB: Russell, just take a moment to describe what you see as the difference between Obamacare and a single-payer system.
President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010.
(Image by (Photo credit: Keith Ellison)) Details DMCA
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